Creating With Kids – Rachel Brannen

This series is a part of the Creating With Kids Interview Project! I have set out to interview 52 dance teachers working with young children everyday. By doing this project, I have learned that you are all amazing, hard working, creative and inspiring! I hope you enjoy the interviews and can take something special away from each one. A look inside a dance teacher’s class, is a look inside a dance teacher’s heart. -Maria

Teddy Bears and Tutus tea party Fall 2013Introducing Rachel Brannen…

Rachel is the owner of Fountain Arts Center, a performing arts center offering classes for ages 2.5-adult in Fountain Colorado. Rachel lives in Colorado Springs and teaches ages 2.5 through age 8 daily. She holds a BS in Psychology, a Masters in Human Services and has been dancing since she was 10.

Maria: Paint us a picture of your typical teaching day? 

Rachel: I go into the studio 15-20 minutes early to get set up. I have taught for so long that I know what I want to teach each class time and have general themes for each month.

Maria: In a few sentences, describe your teaching philosophy.

Rachel: All children love to move! Dance is a natural extension of that. I love incorporating educational concepts into my dance classes.

Maria: If I came to observe you teach today, what is the first quality I would notice about you as a teacher?

Rachel: My rapport with students and command of the class. I am firm but loving with my students and they respond well to that.

Maria: What are 2 things you love about teaching, and one thing you don’t like very much at all.

Rachel: I love it when the “light” goes on and students “get it”. When they have worked all year on something and finally figured it out. I also enjoy showing parents how much their child has accomplished during the year – we have class observations every few months and I explain to parents the skills we are working on and what they have accomplished. I don’t like it when parents hover at the dance studio window – it is distracting to all students.

Maria: What surprises you the most about teaching dance to young children?

Rachel: Every day and class time is different. They are so curious and inquisitive!

Maria: If you were going to speak to a group of aspiring creative dance teachers, what would you tell them?

Rachel: Incorporate as much educational learning into your teaching. We do a stretch we call a triangle (Downward dog in yoga) and the kids love it. They all shout TRIANGLE when we do it. We often talk about the colors, shapes etc. of things. When we do freeze dance I have them freeze in an X shape. For many kids, dance at a young age is their first classroom experience. We definitely teach more than just dance in our classroom, we teach manners and social skills. I keep everything age appropriate – my parents are thankful I don’t costume their children in adult type costumes and that our music and choreography is positive.

Maria: Share with us one teaching moment that you will never forget.

Rachel: This week we asked our students what they were thankful for and shared that with parents when they came in for class observation. One of my students said “I am thankful for sitting next to Ms. Rachel” – My heart was full for the night.

Maria: Teachers of young children need a pocket full of management techniques and tricks to keep things on track. What is one trick in your pocket that almost never fails? 

Rachel: I run a very fast paced class. Transitions are the hardest, so organize your music in the order you will use it. Only stop it if you need to give directions and give them something to do in the transition times such as sing a song as they go to the circle or their spot, have them “spy” on their friends while they wait their turn to go across the floor. We also sometimes sing our movements/exercise.

Maria: Since teachers continue to learn too, what is one teaching goal that you are working towards?

Rachel: I am always looking for new ways to be creative in class and engage students at a deeper level. I want them to start making connections and have more “aha” moments.

Maria: Share with us your most favorite creative dance lesson so we can all use it tomorrow. You know, Maria’s Movers style! 

Rachel: One of my favorites is using the song “Land of Slow Motion” I love teaching dancers about how dance tells a story. Dancers of all ages love this song!  The first part starts with doing everything very slow, the next part repeats but has dancers doing fast through the actions.

We are learning several things in this exercise..listening skills (must listen to speakers directions), speed of movement and theater skills. All very important fundamental dance concepts for young children.

Thank you Rachel for being a part of the project! “For many kids, dance at a young age is their first classroom experience.” That’s so true! It’s important to be good role models and teach valuable lessons! 🙂 

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